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NATO divided on expansion

Latest update : 2008-03-07

Greece stood firm Thursday and refused to allow Macedonia to join the NATO military alliance until a row over its name, that has festered for more than 17 years, has been resolved. (Report: P.Hall)

BRUSSELS, March 6 (Reuters) - Greece said on Thursday it
could not support neighbouring Macedonia's entry into NATO for
now, accusing Skopje of nationalist intransigence in a dispute
over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni said she told NATO
foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels that Macedonia's
attitude could leave Athens no alternative but to use its veto
at an alliance summit in Bucharest next month.

"As far as the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia is
concerned, I stressed that the policy of our neighbour country
does not allow us to take the same positive view as regarding
Albania and Croatia," Bakoyanni told a news conference.

But she also said it was not too late for Skopje to change
its position.

Macedonia hopes to be invited at an April 2-4 summit to join
the 26-member military alliance alongside Croatia and Albania.

Athens has said it will block Macedonia's NATO and European
Union accession until the two agree on a name for Greece's
northern neighbour, which broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece rejects the name Macedonia because it says it implies
territorial ambitions towards Greece's own northern province of
Macedonia, birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Bakoyanni accused Macedonia of "an intransigent stance and
its action of an irredentist and nationalistic logic".

"I underlined that the intransigence that has persisted to
date ... has left us with no other choice," she said. "We are
not happy about that. Nobody likes vetoes."

But she added: "I sincerely hope that there is still time to
reach a mutually acceptable practical solution to be implemented

A United Nations special envoy, Matthew Nimetz, has been
shuttling between Athens and Skopje in an effort to resolve the
dispute before the NATO summit and has put forward several
suggested alternative names.

Nimetz said on Thursday that Macedonia was showing "intense
interest" in resolving the dispute and he had received a lot of
encouragement to continue his task.

Date created : 2008-03-06